Transgender debate: Attorney General for England Suella Braverman's remarks about trans pupils were disturbing – Vic Valentine

We all want the children and young people in our lives to have the best chance they can to grow up true to themselves, and to have the important adults around them, like their families and teachers, take an interest in the things that matter to them.

Former Conservative leadership contender Suella Braverman said schools should not have to comply with the gender preference of pupils (Picture: Aaron Chown/PA)
Former Conservative leadership contender Suella Braverman said schools should not have to comply with the gender preference of pupils (Picture: Aaron Chown/PA)

That’s why it was so disturbing to read remarks by the Attorney General in England on Wednesday, in which she talked about trans young people.

She said that where a young person has started to use a new name, or ask that they be referred to using different pronouns (such as a trans boy who has changed his name from ‘Sarah’ to ‘David’ and asked that people refer to him using ‘he’ and ‘him’, not ‘she’ and ‘her’) schools and teachers don’t need to accept and support this.

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Research this year from LGBT Youth Scotland has shown that the average age in Scotland that a young person first tells someone else that they are trans is 15 – so while they are at school.

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Luckily, having nurturing and supportive families, friends and teachers around them who are involved in their lives can let them flourish and thrive as their true selves.

Small acts of acceptance can make a big difference, and give young people what they need to help them grow. Things like listening to a young person about how they feel, using their chosen name and the pronouns they ask us to, and letting them express themselves through the clothes they wear.

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Trans people want everyone to have the freedom to be themselves - Vic Valentine

The evidence shows that when they are supported to be themselves in this way, that this leads to much better outcomes. This is particularly true when trans children and young people are accepted by their parents and families, friends and schools.

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LGBT Youth Scotland’s research found that 77 per cent of trans young people had a supportive or very supportive reaction when they first came out. This is more young people than when they asked the same question in 2017 (70 per cent) so it is good that things are getting better.

When we know that it is so important for all young people to be given the support and acceptance they need, it is hard to understand why a senior member of the UK Government would suggest that schools and teachers should do the opposite when it comes to trans young people.

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Children and young people may choose to use different names for all kind of reasons – maybe they have a middle name that reminds them of a grandparent who has passed away, or maybe they prefer the shorter version of the name on their birth certificate.

We’d normally expect teachers and schools to listen to young people about why this mattered to them. It should be no different for trans young people.

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In Scotland, resources on LGBT inclusive education and guidance on how to support trans pupils help schools and teachers to understand and respect children and young people’s choices.

By giving teachers, schools and social clubs the support they need to be able to do this, we can make sure that every young person in Scotland has a decent chance to be true to themselves while they are learning, and to grow up happy and healthy.

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Vic Valentine is manager of Scottish Trans

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